Finishing Well

I’m not a big sports fan, but when I do watch sports, I usually just watch the end of the game because what matters most is how it ends.

I think that it’s the same in life.  What matters most isn’t how well we start, but how well we end.   Our final years, months, and days are what stand out the most to people because these are the last memories we leave them with. 

A father who was absent from his son’s life, but restored the lost connection in his final years is remembered not as the absentee father, but as the father who had the strength of character to make amends for years of neglect.  A minister who preached the gospel for decades, but then ended up embezzling money at the end of his career, is remembered not for how he helped people for years, but how he stole.  Former NFL quarterback Steve McNair isn’t remembered as a great football player; He is remembered as the football player who was shot dead by his mistress.

Sadly, our beloved Michael Jackson is another example. He entered our hearts a cute little boy with the soulful voice of a full-grown man.  He exited the public stage, however, a victim of drugs and excessive fame, under a cloud of allegations.

As I’ve thought about Michael one year after his death, what has struck me is how sad I am, not about his physical death, but about the circumstances of his death.  The last decade of his life was filled with myriad tabloid articles, tales of abuse, questions about his sense of identity, and accusations of being an unfit parent.

His death, although technically ruled a homicide, has left some wondering if an addiction to prescription drugs preceded and facilitated the overdose.

All of this has left a shadow over Michael’s memory.  Yes, we have celebrated his music, his impact on pop culture, and his noteworthy humanitarian efforts.  But his legacy remains tainted by a strange mesh of rumors, poor personal choices, and unexplainable behavior.

His family is working hard to restore his public image, as evidenced by the elaborate public funeral, the televised family funeral, and the carefully crafted interviews of Michael’s former staff.

I don’t know if their overtime plays will prove fruitful, though.  Unfortunately, Michael’s game is over, and it didn’t end well.